CBS News posted a new headline: “Putin signs new ‘foreign agent’ law that could help him silence even more voices.” In our global world, this is a headline that should cause concern to all, especially freedom-loving Americans.
The article explains that “Putin has signed new laws that allow authorities to designate individual journalists, bloggers, or virtually anyone else who uses social media as foreign agents…Under the new law individuals can be labeled foreign agents if they receive funding from foreign sources.”
This law expands a 2012 law concerning charities and other organizations with foreign funding. Now, however, journalists and even anyone using social media could now be labeled as foreign agents.
Such limitations are just another step to curtail any critical voices that dare to speak in Russia. At the moment, hefty fines are the only punishment for noncompliance but with small organizations or independent journalists, fines are deterrent enough.
CBS reports that the 2012 law “led to the closure of some prominent non-governmental organizations, court proceedings and fines.” If the 2012 law which affected entire organizations could shut down some prominent ones, just think of the chilling effect upon individuals.
Eugenia Nazarets, Radio Liberty’s bureau chief in Moscow highlighted that the “vague wording of the new law is a particular concern, making it difficult to anticipate how Russian authorities will use it… ‘Right now the law doesn’t say that there has to be a connection between your actions and the funding.”
Because of the vague language, anyone with any foreign connections, even just family abroad, could be subject to fines. Nazarets predicts that because of the vague language, the law “will be applied selectively, ‘on demand,’ with the Russian government simply picking and choosing who to use it against.”
Across the country, offices have been raided and shut down over violations of the 2012 foreign agent law. CBS reports that “Russian officials aren’t shy about the fact that the foreign agent laws are Moscow’s response to the U.S. government’s treatment of Russian state-funded and controlled news agencies RT and Sputnik news. Those organizations were accused of spreading propaganda in the U.S. and were required to register their local branches in the U.S. under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).”
Russian officials are claiming that they are simply implementing similar laws against foreign agents in Russia but really they’re working to silence voices of dissent within the country.
As other countries threaten the freedom of speech and expression within their borders, as U.S. citizens, we must work tirelessly to protect our same freedoms. While we are not facing hefty fines in violation of free speech limitations, cultural censorship has resulted in many lost jobs and smear campaigns, effectively working to silence those who dare to speak against the culture wave.